01/01/2013 09:18 am ET Updated Mar 03, 2013

To Our Ancestors

This letter is part of our "Letters to Our Ancestors" project. In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, we've asked members of our community to share their own letters to our forefathers. With these letters, we hope to look back on the progress our community has made and give thanks to those who helped pave the way. You can see them all here.

To our wonderful ancestors,

If I had the opportunity to sit and speak with you all, I'd talk your ear off. I would have to catch you before you touched a television, though -- wouldn't want you thinking it's all Basketball Wives and crime. The truth is, things are not perfect for black folks today but we have so much potential. Our potential is so vibrant and I am not just thinking about the fact that we have a black president. Nope. Not at all.

Our potential has the power to build a better world and we have some very talented folks that are doing just that. We have them in the public eye but more of them live meager lives that impact us all now and set the standard for future generation. The great ones are mentoring young people as I type. These are the folks that are making you all smile.

I have to be honest, too. It isn't all great. We have our people killing each other with no regard for life. We have some that shun reading and learning for the latest reality show or shoes. In my hometowns (yes, I have multiple) of Chicago and Oakland, killings are extremely high. Oakland has more than 100 murders this year with Chicago nearing 500. We do not value life the same. There has been a number of shootings of our young men by authority figures with little to no consequence. Much of it is us killing us. The nation doesn't mourn those losses the same way it mourns others. We have many lost souls, but I have love for them all. I have learned to attack with love at the forefront. You get better results. It has only strengthened my resolve.

I don't want to bum you all out, though. We are working on that. I want to thank you for the wonderful gifts that your struggles ultimately gave us. We can read and we can vote. We can work. The list goes on. However, the greatest gift your struggle has meant to me is the most fundamental: I do not belong to another person. I will never belong to another person. Because of the sacrifices you all have made for us, I can have a different type of dignity that was only dreamed of. Actually, many could not even fathom the idea to dream of it. That is how special our ancestors are to me.

So here is what you can expect from us. You can expect us to be as resilient bunch, just as you all were. There will be ups and downs. Oh, but we have the potential to make the ups glorious. We have the capacity to raise the bar to levels unseen. I believe in our people so much. I believe in our call to greatness. You can expect me to personally continue to dedicate my life to helping us realize that potential. My investment in youth will continue to be my life's work. In my generation and the one after me, I can promise and assure you all that you will see new groundbreaking leaders ascend to greatness and elevate us. I truly believe that. I sincerely appreciate the path paved for me. So overall, I would like to end this letter by simply saying, thank you. I exist because you did. Cole Out.

Charles Cole, III